Glasgow out of Heineken Cup but determined to remain in Europe

GLASGOW captain Alastair Kellock emerged from an emotional home dressing room bloodied and disappointed after his troops fell short of toppling the Heineken Cup champions Leinster, but confident that the Scottish side could still qualify for Europe’s knockout stages.

The 23-16 defeat at Firhill knocks Glasgow out of contention for a place in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, but they are still in with a hope of a place in the last eight of the second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup. After an historic win in France, Edinburgh are potentially one win away from the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, but for Glasgow to reach the Amlin last eight they will need to beat Bath away and hope that Munster beat Northampton, also in England, and Scarlets falter in France to Max Evans’ Castres on Saturday night. Those results are eminently possible, the toughest arguably Glasgow’s.

There are more mathematics if bonus points and draws come into play, but for the first time in the 16-year history of European rugby, two Scottish teams head into the last round of pool action with the potential to be involved in the post-Six Nations knockout stages.

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Kellock insisted the disappointment of failing to claim Leinster’s scalp will not prove a hindrance to the side in Bath, but provide fuel.

“It won’t be difficult going there, but exciting,” he said. “There is a real determination that we’re going to keep improving. Losing a game is a huge motivation and we have to use the correct motivating factors to go on to next week and beyond. But we are in a good place; a fraction away from beating the European champions at home.

“It’s good that we’re disappointed, but this week is going to be an enjoyable week and I’m looking forward to going down to Bath and playing another exceptionally good team.

“Mathematically, we’re not out of Europe yet. We still have an opportunity to go down there and get something, and see what happens, though we have to rely on other results. We’re going into the last game still with an opportunity to qualify. It’s an outside chance, but it’s a chance nonetheless.

“And we are not going to be a team that, even if we were out of this, it would mean it didn’t matter. We have never been a team in my whole time here that would sit back and say ‘well, we’re out; this doesn’t matter’. Every single game matters and the guys that get the opportunity to play next week will be determined to win and we have shown that in the past in this competition. Every game matters.”

The Warriors lost by four points the last time they faced Bath at the Recreation Ground, after a scintillating game which launched Ruaridh Jackson into the wider rugby consciousness. They have already beaten the team this season, which is coached by Ian McGeechan and has All Blacks World Cup winner Stephen Donald pulling the strings on the field, at Firhill and with just two defeats in their last 12 matches are a side developing a greater confidence to take on Europe’s big guns. Kellock added: “There was a lot of emotion flying around in the dressing room after that game because we absolutely left ourselves out there on the pitch.

“We talked about our determination to win these games; to get that bit better and not come up speaking to you guys [media] about what could have been, but about what we need to do next week to qualify. So there is a lot of disappointment swirling around right now.

“But we know we are very competitive now and that comes from consistency, which is a big change from last season. Last season, a lot of young lads were blooded though, and I think that was a huge factor in the way we’re playing this year. Look at Chris Fusaro, who was absolutely outstanding again today – he has been all season.

“It’s all very well being competitive, but we want to be winning. If we’d had the last ten-to-15 minutes where we put them under enormous pressure at the start of the half, it would have been different today. It’s so tiring defending, and 60 minutes into that game we were exhausted because they had controlled the ball for ten-to-15 minutes, and in that last 15 minutes they’d have been exhausted defending their line.

“But that first half was the best we’ve played for ages – our attack was more threatening than it’s been in a long time and we showed we were a difficult team to play against.

“All credit to Leinster for soaking that up and coming out and winning it, but we believe that we can go to Bath now and win and we’ll see what that produces.”